The Adelaide music scene: to many of you it might be little more than a touring speed bump between Melbourne and Perth but to us it's a way of life. Feast within, on all its dysfunctioning splendour, as we bring you the highly satirical, laughingly fictional and intellectually imbecile tales from our rock & roll wasteland...
QUIET CHILD + BUSHIDO + ROOK "EVENING BELL" LAUNCH @ ADELAIDE UNI BAR / Saturday June 6th 2009
The way I figure it, there's only ever been two professions in this world: hunters & gatherers and bullshit artists (or four if you count prostitutes and middle management). Granted we've come up with infinitely more creative names for the second, everything from: shamans, druids, priests, politicians, lawyers and advertising executives; and we can all argue their role in society is nothing but vital but yeaaah it's pretty much the same shit. Any optimist would call it a "leap of faith", a pessimist would call it "the blind leading the blind", the rest of us simply call it "bullshit" (and secretly wish we could all pick them off with a sniper rifle). To be a hunter & gatherer is a matter of survival, we'd all be dead without them. But to be a master of bullshit all you need is an overractive imagination and the power of persuasion. Who cares if there's a few human sacrifices along the way, it's the will of the gods! Can't explain something? simply make shit up! Convince enough people? it becomes the truth! For thousands of years we actually believed the world was flat and the best way to cure the hiccups was to throw leeches at it. Why? because some ingenious bastard made it all up on the spot and it somehow stuck. Yup, the trick to truly effective bullshit is to become SO convincing at it you believe it yourself. And if you're really lucky people might actually worship you as a god for it and it becomes "art". It's how rock musicians used to operate. Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Ian Curtis and Kurt Cobain. They were freaks of nature, there's no doubt about it. Too weird to live, too rare to die, they weren't just mere mortals; they walked on water and swam on the land! We suspended our disbelief and followed them to the ends of the earth! They weren't just bullshit to us maaan, they were true ARTISTS!
Yes there IS a difference, whatever you want to call it: art, music, theatre, cinema or literature; it's more than just "bullshit", it transcends it! But sooner or later any advanced society cracks that Da Vinci code behind true "artistry", the whole house of mirrors goes up in smoke and then we're gargling upto our tonsils in excrement. They call it democracy, mass production, the SMS vote, Guitar Hero, Protools; now anyone can be a celebrity. In fact we have whole factories devoted to pumping out this shit. And as much as I appreciate the positives it brings, it still doesn't change the odds. You can have a multi-million dollar budget, back up dancers, costume changes, crap a symphony orchestra out of every orifice, the works; but bullshit is still bullshit (or worse it's Lady GaGa). It's propaganda. It's a shouting match. It's your word against theirs. They're down every street corner now in their thousands, playing every venue, screaming over the top of each other to make themselves heard; it's hard not to be a cynic when faced with such overwhelming odds.
Still, true art does exist! I know it can be indistinguishable from bullshit (Kings of Leon the rock band vs Kings Of Leon the boy band anyone!?) but it all boils down to the filtering. It's in there somewhere amongst all the radio airplay, press interviews, word-of-mouth and blogger buzz. Eventually you'll figure out who's playing with a full deck, who's bluffing and who's simply lost their marbles; then screen out all the spam (I also find it helps not to trust anyone who's makes regular appearances on MTV, Rove Live or gets their own novelty ringtone). And as for me? I like to go see them live, take the absolute piss out of them, and whoever doesn't develop an eating disorder or tries to assassinate me I generally consider to be an artist worth following. It's insane I know but I'm pretty sure nobody's killed me for it yet; so why fuck with a winning formula? Which in a roundabout way is why I'm at Adelaide Uni Bar tonight to see our headlining act (as I'm pretty sure they're far from bullshit). As for the other supporting acts? fuckit, I guess we'll soon find out!
SHILOH (**1/2) myspace :: Our opening act is a "serious rock band" in every sense of the word, that me putting it in quotation marks just now clearly ISN'T taking the absolute piss out of. You can see it in their pained expressions, how they grimace, squint, scowl, sweat bullets and drag imaginary balls and chains around the stage. They're wrenching grit and determinaton out of every riff and out of every verse: the power, the passion, it's truly moving stuff. In fact I'm pretty sure their lead singer, Michael Chinner is moving a particularly large one through his colon right now. Is it a pineapple? a cactus? a china cabinet? a newborn hippopotamus? it's hard to say but I'm feeling it all the same. His look simply screams "Elvis Presley live in Las Vegas!" via Trent Reznor on a 'roid rage blackout and I think I may need to flush one out now just thinking about it.. wait scuse me I'm gonna do that right now *flush* ok I'm back.. where was I? oh yeah! Shiloh. I can see what they're going for with this band. I mean I don't get me wrong: Maynard James Keenan IS an artistic genius, there's just no doubt about it! Who wouldn't want to front the world's most ridiculously awesome prog metal band, start an equally awesome sideproject, start another slightly shit one, and then retire to a vineyard somewhere in Arizona for the rest of their lives being as incredibly awesome as Maynard James Keenan. Brilliant! Problem is, pretty much every local band I've ever seen who's ever attempted this schtick (with a few possible exceptions) totally fucks it up. I understand it's a fine line, and depending on where your bullshit threshold sits (and don't get me started on the whole Melbourne scene) Shiloh could possibly fall in one of two ways (irregardless of how accomplished they may actually be as musicians). Either you, like many of their screaming rent-a-crowd here tonight, truly believe they're channeling all the brilliance of A Perfect Circle, Cog and The Butterfly Effect. Or for reasons completely batshit insane, like me, all you can hear is Matchbox 20, Bon Jovi, Creed and those emo dipshits from Good Charlotte doing public service announcements. It all boils down to how well you buy the "intensity" of their delivery: all those angsty guitar riffs, their itchy trigger double kick drum, those plodding bass rhythms, how they make everything a life and death struggle. In the end it could kinda go either way (depending on how exceedingly drunk you are). Some would consider it Oscar worthy. Others would consider it worthy for a Daytime Emmy or maybe even a Logie; fuckit, each to their own. Shiloh. If pain persists, see your proctologist.
ROOK (***1/2) myspace :: When it comes to our second act, you can't help but cheer them on for the simple fact that their lead singer is way too ridiculously excited to be here and isn't short of letting everyone know about it. Sure, this sorta thing would normally bug the crap out of me, but all credit to him he somehow makes it work. Forbes McKail: you can't miss him even if you tried. He's the one with his arms outstretched, spinning his dreads, running laps, wooping up the crowd, lunging out from the foldbacks with a demented grin, and generally carrying on like he's a golden retriever having an explosive happy fit over a flying tennis ball. If you could imagine Bob Marley, The Wiggles and Patience Hodgeson from The Grates fighting over control of Zach De La Rocha's puppet strings then you'd have his stage antics just about nailed. But of course he's not all there is to this band: throw in bassist Adam May pulling an A-Z of spastic chimp facials and fill-in drummer Sean Bailey from Sydonia providing the pounding seismic activity, and you're closer to getting the complete picture (oh and I could mention something equally descriptive about their guitarist Tyson Fish but quite frankly with all the other shit flying about I almost forgot he was even up there). Rook. In many ways they're yet another prog metal band in the vein of Cog, Butterfly Effect, Perfect Circle, Tool and me stifling a loud yawn; but they also throw in a stack of other influences to keep things more interesting. Firstly there's that rhythm section in the slower songs (see video) that veer from dub/reggae to middle eastern in flavour: or rather like Incubus and the Deftones crossed with System Of A Down. And then there's that gunning guitar shred in the faster songs that remind me of Soundgarden's "Jesus Christ Pose" mixed with Faith No More's "We Care A Lot" album. Or in other slightly more obscure references: think Melbourne band Mammal, only whacked out on dope and not speed. It's a bipolar disorder I know: equal measure screamingly aggressive and blissed out rastafarian grooves but thanks to the comical stage presence provided by Forbes McKail happily chasing his own tail for the entirety of the set, it's hard not to be won over all the same.
BUSHIDO (***1/2) myspace :: In watching our third act tonight, I'm reminded of a sequence of seemingly unrelated sounds and images: Henry Rollins eating a sandwich, The Incredible Hulk building a toy aeroplane, those howling zombies out of 28 Days Later, King Kong fighting T-Rex, Wolverine fighting Sabretooth, Homer strangling Bart Simpson, Ren having an exploding hissyfit in Ren & Stimpy, Frank Miller's 300, The Battle for Helms Deep, the drill sergeant out of Full Metal Jacket, Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, Robert De Niro in Cape Fear, Michael Douglas in Falling Down, Jack Nicholson in The Shining, that scene in Fight Club where Edward Norton pounds Jaret Leto's head into the ground, Christian Bale's rage blackout in Terminator Salvation, Beethoven's 9th as it relates to A Clockwork Orange, Tom Cruise going beserk on Oprah's couch, a toddler playfully pulling on a Rottweiler's ears, the music video to Nine Inch Nail's "Burn" and the sight of someone eating a Hungry Jacks Quad Stacker followed by a sixpack of Redbull (each can smashed into the forehead in turn) followed by a refreshing after dinner mint served between two charged paddles of a defibrilator. Yeah I don't know how I came up with any of that shit either, as clearly they have nothing to do with this band. Bushido. Arguably most of their set tonight consists of nothing more than a rough hewn metronome ode to the simple joys of gargling raw meat, crapping out fire and exploding in a shower of red mist in a post apocalyptic battle field of some description; and in so many ways they remind me of Metallica in that way. I mean no shit, you need only take one look at their lead singer Jaymz Phillips channelling the James Hetfield (yes his name has a fucking "Z" in it) to understand where I'm coming from. But every once and while they also come up with the occassional inspired detour where both Jaymz on leads and Guy Shenfield harmonise on vocals to produce an ethereal effect not too dissimilar to that found in the quieter moments of Alice In Chains. It's a complete surprise, it's definitely their best quality, and in every way I'd otherwise picture them as nothing but a cartoon: a screaming no-neck carcass punching pyscho of a band, it's exceptional shit like this that shows they may have some true potential ahead. Go figure?
QUIET CHILD (*****) myspace :: Every one of our support acts tonight have done their utmost to convince us that they're fuckoff extreme. It's pretty much a given when it comes to the whole "prog-metal" scene, where it's all about wanting to unleash your inner neanderthal and tear shit up if only those invisible "chains" called society weren't holding you back. Every band has their own attack strategy: from enlisting a police line up of frowny faces expressing nothing but existential woe, to spending their entire set shooting their neck veins out, to treating the stage like their very own bouncey castle and killing everything that moves; each has their own merit. Sure, it's all bullshit but if it works it works. But if our headlining act possesses a trump card that truly puts them in a league of their own and makes them "true artists", it's gotta be that improbable hobbit they've got out front: a cross between Silent Bob, Peter Jackson and one of those bearded goons who used to program for Microsoft back in the 70's. He's Peter Spiker. As much as this band is about all four members combined it's all about this guy too. Firstly it's in his ethereal singing voice. We're talking grown men bursting tears of joy just to be in its glorious presence; and I'm not even kidding! If you could somehow combine Maynard James Keenan (yup there goes that name again) with Chino Moreno, Matt Bellamy, Thom Yorke and a sprinkling of Jeff Buckley you'd barely scrape the surface of the insane vocal finesse he possesses. Secondly it's the fact he's SO completely clueless about it. Forget bullshit posturing, this dude's a total dweeb. Like the fact he's almost always suffering from a head cold, or the fact he's an unashamable gamer geek. You can spot a passing reference to that in both the shirt he's wearing tonight that reads "Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa" (Richard Garriott: for those of you in the know was THE undeniable god of the RPG genre when he produced the "Ultima" series back in the 80's) or for the passing reference to "Elder Scrolls IV" the band gives at the end of the thank you's listed on their album (or in the fact he's occassionally spotted playing his Nintendo DS before a show). Thirdly it's in the fact that he's completely crap at promoting the band. Take the interview he did with Rip It Up to "talk up" tonight's album launch for example: "It sounds like I'm resenting the album more and that the album isn't worth releasing, which isn't true but it is really hard to stay excited about something that's been around for a year.". Awesome huh!? The same album I might add (after thrashing it at least four times this week) that's without a doubt one of the BEST local releases I've heard this year. Yup, when a band's so utterly crap at promoting themselves that everyone else volunteers to do this shit for them; you know you're onto a real winner!
As for tonight's set: as undeniably brilliant as it was (and how!), it wasn't without its technical issues, especially with the sound. Either the mixing desk was possessed by a poltergeist, or someone was happily smashing the fuck out've it with a monkey wrench. For not only was their bass EQ cranked so ridiculously heavy that it flared up as a pulsating hum in the quiet bits (that for the first time in over four hundred live videos I've EVER recorded, actually caused the sound to "distort") but the mix also managed to upstage the band with a series of slapstick comedy routines throughout the set. Firstly during "Captain Trips" (see video above at the 2:19 mark) when the speakers blasted out a square nugget of white noise so jarring it almost cut the song in half, and secondly during the encore where for a good ten to fifteen seconds Pete's microphone dropped out. We were wondering who or what could've been responsible for this, until someone wisely pointed out that the mixer was wearing "white pants" (and of course that could only mean one thing: we'd somehow lost our REAL mixer and instead they've hired someone who's really good with yachts). None of it did the band any favours and yet to their infinite credit, they still managed to transcend it. Yup, Quiet Child are one of those rare chosen few where you can totally suspend your disbelief and simply drift along to it, no matter what's happening around you. Even if they were playing in a blackout whilst the room was slowly filling with water; we'd still be blissed out like serene stoners to an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. With their freak combination of Brent Carraill's bass and Paul Backman's drums providing the methodical pachyderm, Jason Mavrikis' richly melodic riffs, and Pete's ethereal voice they took us to a whole other dimension: equal parts Muse, Deftones and A Perfect Circle. It was an epic journey through and through. The kinda shit you could hunt mammoth or kill bison to; or perhaps take a nine hour cinematic odyssey from one end of Middle Earth to the other to cast the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. And if they ever adapted this shit into an online universe like World Of Warcraft? I'd never leave the house. No shit, when they finally DO dig me out of all that wreckage? I'll be nothing but a bearded, bedraggled, emaciated shadow of a loon preaching nothing but Quiet Child. Such is their diabolical power. Get their album "Evening Bell", duuude it'll blow your freaking miiind!
1:24AM - After Quiet Child's epic set had defeated the improbable and effectively levelled everything around us to a half mile radius, followed by a blistering encore, followed by a chorus of shrieking baboons around me STILL begging for more, my brain had all but shut down for the evening. I didn't need it any more, I'd simply let gravity guide me wherever it may. Then I blinked and the lights were already on. The room once blanketed thick with fog (or perhaps it was steam, or perhaps it was bong smoke, or perhaps it was simply the demolecularised mist of the crowd long since ascendant into the infinite) had long since cleared. We stood stammering, dazed and confused, unsure what the hell to do next. I mean how could you possibly top Quiet Child tonight?
1:31AM - And so we stood there for a good half hour, blissfully oblivious to the bouncers who've also been telling us to leave for a good half hour; they even took turns. I mean sure, they might have a two digit number, a black shirt and a walkie talkie but what does that matter to us!? *pfft* simple concepts like time and space are meaningless to us now. We're through the looking glass now, we follow nothing but Quiet Child, we can see through all your lies!! *cough* wait, you mean to tell us the bar's already closed for the night? Shit. What the fuck are we still doing here then!?
1:43AM - Yup, we may question many things in the wake of what we'd seen, but if there's one thing we could all still agree on: it's that we're drunk, nowhere near drunk enough and in a serious need to get more ridiculously drunk by any means deemed entirely unnecessary (just why exactly we'd soon forgot). And if there was one place in all of Adelaide that'd cater to this pressing need, that by no coincidence just so happened to be a stone's throw from the Royal Adelaide Hospital (they've even got a sign outside leading the way!) it would be right here at The Crown & Anchor.
3:01AM - So here I am happily drinking myself retarded with what appears to be a giant set of grinning teeth and one of those grave diggers you get out of a Charles Dicken's novel: otherwise known as Daniella (designer dweeb for the Are/Why? fashion label) and Sean Bailey (drummer for Sydonia). Of course I only believe any of this shit because somebody told me this once and it somehow stuck (or quite possibly they told me numerous times as I have an absolutely crap memory for names). Granted if I was a slightly less trusting person prone to wild fits of paranoia, I'd be attacking them with a fire extinguisher right about now *cough* but no shit.. good people!
Yup, the awesome thing about alcohol, is in drinking vast quantities of it, you'll believe just about any bullshit that's put in front of you as the truth. Take this "Tasty Toob" for example. Daniella claims it's "food", and since I'm clearly waaay too drunk to argue I'll just accept that on face value. I mean fuck, who could possibly refuse a tasty dose of salt (508), flavour enhancer (621), food acids (262, 330), natural colour (160a), depleted uranium (238), DDT, asbestos, weaponised anthrax, recycled car tires and something simply labelled as "miscellaneous". Sure there's no actual nutritional content in here that I'm aware of but *pfft* when has THAT ever stopped me!?
Still, just before I had the chance to eat a whole hand full of them: a "random bystander" tried to voice his dissent, detailing in ridiculously over intricate detail a conspiracy theory that somehow linked shape shifting reptilians from outer space that secretly have controlling interests in most of the world's governments, the British royal family and whoever decides Channel 10's prime time scheduling with what's found in an average 45g bag of Tasty Tubes. I'm pretty sure it would've sounded really convincing too, if only his argument wasn't cut short by Daniella choking him to death, dragging his limp body discretely past the bouncers and burying it in the back alley behind The Crown & Anchor (where all my other half-arse concocted punchlines tend to find themselves).
And as much as I too was beginning to suspect something might've been a little awry here tonight, I was soon silenced by Daniella when she gave Sean a re-enactment of that "prank" she pulled a week ago at The Ed Castle. "Hey Spoz, remember that time I kicked you in the head and you blacked out cold for almost an hour!?". Ummm no I don't, why do you ask? "Oh no reason..".
4:33AM - And so here I am waking up somewhere down Grenfell Street over an hour later, without a single clue how the fuck I came to be here (or why half of my teeth had gone missing); but conveniently just in time for the last late night bus to drag my drunkarse carcass home (weird how it always seems to work out like that too, it's almost as if I made this up on the spot? hmmm..).
Yup, there's always been a fine line between art and bullshit, just as there's always been a fine line between reality and anything that apparently "happens" after midnight in an episode of Spoz's Rant (especially after a few too many beers on a Saturday night). It's all down to the filtering. I'm no hunter & gatherer, I know that much, maybe none of us are; maybe we're all bullshit artists: our works endlessly subjective, intangible and constantly rife with reinterpretation. All we can hope to do to make sense of this ripening insanity now is to sift through the wreckage and find that which we're willing to believe in. True art IS still out there, simply bring a snorkle and dive on in!